The world wide web has become an annoying, ultra-commercialized space. Many websites today are prioritizing the interests of the company behind the domain, at the expense of the user’s experience and well-being. This has been a frustrating problem for several years, but lately there’s been a heartwarming trend of users fighting back against the corporate web and stepping up to help and serve each other’s needs in spite of them, through what I’ve come to think of as Internet reclamation projects.
I think the first of these which appeared on my radar was Invidious, which scrapes information off of a YouTube page and presents it in a more pleasant, user-first interface— something which NewPipe also does well for Android. These tools pry data out of YouTube’s hands and present it on a simple UI, designed for users first, with no ads or spyware, and with nice features YouTube would never add, like download links, audio mode, and offline viewing. It shows us what users want, but YouTube refuses to give.
Another project which has been particularly successful recently is Nitter, which does something similar for Twitter. Twitter’s increasingly draconian restrictions on who can access what data, and their attitude towards logged-out users in particular, has been a great annoyance to anyone who does not have, and does not want, a Twitter account, but who may still encounter Twitter links around the web. Nitter has been quite helpful in de-crapifying Twitter for these folks. I have set up an automatic redirect in my browser which takes me straight to Nitter, and I never have to see the shitty, user-hostile Twitter interface again.
Bibliogram is another attempt which has done its best to fix Instagram, but they have encountered challenges with Instagram’s strict rate limits and anti-scraping measures. Another project, Teddit, is attempting to fix Reddit’s increasingly anti-user interface, and Libreddit has similar ambitions.
All of these services are more useful, more accessible, and more inclusive than their corporate counterparts. They work better on older browsers and low-end devices. They have better performance. They aren’t spying on you. In short, they are rejecting the domestication of their users that the platforms they interact with have been trying to do. Their efforts are part of an inspiring trend of internet activism which rejects the corporate shells and walled gardens without giving up the useful data they have stolen away inside.
Here are some more services full of user-hostile behavior I’d like to see replaced with user-first, high performance, FOSS frontends:
- GitLab and GitHub
- Medium et al, via an open source readability-as-a-service platform
I would be happy to redirect myself away from any of these services for a faster, lighter weight, more inclusive, user-first experience. Any others you’d like to see?